HARDING: Depth, experience key for Harding Bisons

Conference: Great American
Coach: Ronnie Huckeba
2012 Record: 9-2 (7-1), advanced to first round of NCAA Division II playoffs

2012 was a very successful year for Harding University.

Ranked No. 19 nationally, the Bisons won nine games, finished second in the Great American Conference and earned their first NCAA Division II playoff berth in school history. In April, all-conference defensive end Ty Powell became the first Harding player in 30 years to be drafted. Powell was selected in the seventh round by the Seattle Seahawks.

Eight offensive starters return in 2013, and one of the team’s strongest assets this year will be its depth at running back. Romo Westbrook rushed for 655 yards and five touchdowns in 2012 and looks to improve those numbers in 2013. The junior all-conference honoree charged 90-yards against Arkansas Tech last season, tying Harding’s longest rush in program history. Westbrook finished with 181 rushing yards in the win. Junior D’Nico Jackson-Best amassed 108 rushes for 555 yards and four touchdowns last year and is a strong playmaker in the backfield, with 25 percent of his runs resulting in first downs or touchdowns last year. Juniors Ahmad Scott, Jason Oller and Alapeti Magalei also help in the backfield.

With the Bisons losing quarterback Kelvin Martin to graduation, Harding will look to Keenan Kellett to call the offense. The junior backed up Martin in 10 games last year, rushing 48 times for 230 yards and a score and completing 9-of-21 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

Junior Donatella Luckett shines at wide receiver and should be Kellett’s top target. Luckett gained 453 yards and seven touchdowns on just 28 recep- tions last year, while rushing for 122 yards and two scores as well. Senior Alex Finley should have a productive year opposite Luckett.

An experienced offensive line will also be a fac- tor. Senior Jeremiah Vivio is a four-year starter on the offensive line. Senior Dallon Hudson and junior Mike Thompson started every game last year at center and guard, respectively. Juniors Patrick Bingham and Cole Lockwood fill out the line.

Placekicker John Gay set school records last season, converting all 43 PAT attempts and 14-of-18 field goal attempts. The junior earned first team all-conference honors and will be a critical factor in close games.

Harding led the GAC in scoring defense and total defense last year, but just one starter returns to this year’s defense. Erik Ragsdale started nine games at linebacker and recorded 37 tackles. The senior serves as a vocal leader on defense. Senior Philip Mion will start at free safety after picking up 34 tackles last year. Seniors B.J. Jones and Daniel Riley are both strong options at defensive end. Look for speedy redshirt freshman Corey Bassett and sophomore Trendall Stevenson to contribute. Stevenson intercepted two passes last year and recorded 23 tackles.

Sept. 5 at Southwestern Okla. St.
Sept. 14 Northwestern Okla. State
Sept. 28 Southern Nazarene
Oct. 3 at Southern Arkansas
Oct. 12 Arkansas-Monticello
Oct. 19 at Ouachita Baptist
Oct. 26 Henderson State
Nov. 2 at Southeastern Okla. St.
Nov. 9 East Central Oklahoma
Nov. 16 at Arkansas Tech